Lost and Found
“When you grow up in America, there’s all this pressure to be perfect. But that sets us up for failure."
ByMegan McDonaldMay 25, 2021
There’s a scene in the first episode of The Lost Kitchen, a new series on Magnolia Network,in which the chef Erin French tears up, thinking about how she’s about to serve the last dinner of the season at her Maine restaurant. It’s October 2019, and Covid-19 isn’t a topic of conversation yet—but it’s as if French somehow has an inkling that everything is about to change.
“There are moments in my life where I’ve had these weird premonitions,” says French, whose memoir,Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking a Life From Scratch, was released in April. “I had it with my first restaurant, too. After our very last dinner service, I sat down on the stairs and cried. I didn’t know what was happening, or what was going to happen, but there was a sense of finality.”
Finding Freedom andThe Lost Kitchen bothchronicle French’s rise to culinary acclaim. She grew up in the tiny town of Freedom, Maine, honing her cooking skills at her father’s diner.
Desperate to leave Freedom, she attended college at Northeastern University with plans to become a doctor, only to find herself unexpectedly pregnant at age 21. She returned to Maine and began working in food again, hosting secret suppers in her Belfast apartment, where she quickly grew a devoted fan base and eventually opened the first iteration of The Lost Kitchen. A passionate supporter of local farmers and producers, French’s simple-yet-elevated New American food soon earned her national acclaim—including an invitation to cook at the James Beard House.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. French had gotten married, to an abusive, alcoholic boat builder who was old enough to be her father, and as her star burned brighter, the already volatile marriage crumbled. The deterioration of the relationship, combined with the stress of running her restaurant, led to a deep depression, and she became addicted to the pills her doctor prescribed to help manage it.
The last night of the service she describes was a breaking point, ending with a violent fight between French and her husband. On the verge of suicide, she ended up in rehab. He fired the entire Lost Kitchen staff, closed the restaurant and changed the locks on the doors, taking custody of French’s son in the process. French thought she’d lost everything.
After rehab, she wound up back at her parents’ house again, determined to rebuild her life. Channeling her supper club roots, she bought a rundown Airstream trailer, gutted it and installeda working kitchen, and began hosting pop-up dinners at farms and orchards around the state, serving food that came from the surrounding fields and barns.
A year later, the opportunity to open another restaurant, this time in a restored gristmill in Freedom, presented itself. Seven years later, that restaurant became one of the hottest tickets in the country—so popular it only takes reservations via postcard lottery.Then Covid-19 hit, and French was forced to pivot yet again. The Lost Kitchenchronicles her attempt to salvage a lost year, an epilogue to the challenges she describes in Finding Freedom.
“We were really in danger of losing the restaurant,” says French. “But everyone who was in my world who loved me pitched in to help in any way possible.”
With the help of her all-female staff, many of whom worked at the original Lost Kitchen, and her new husband, media executive Michael Dutton, French hosted drive-through farmers' markets to help growers who depended on restaurant revenue recoup some of their costs. She also launched an online gift market, featuring a selection of Maine-made goods by local women, and built a series of private dining cabins that will be able sustain the restaurant through the winter, instead of just its typical May-October season.
The show and the book have given French and her business—and her remarkable story—even more exposure.
“It had been years of people coming after us and wanting to film something, but we were cautious about making the right decision,” she says. “Finally, we found a production partner that we felt confident with.” The show airs on Chip and Joanna Gaines’ new Magnolia Network, part of Discovery+, and French says the partnership was a perfect match: “They’re focused on telling people’s stories.”
Similarly, she says of her book, “I would have never thought of being a writer, but I had this story burning inside of me in a way that was very clear and undeniable.”
“I approached writing like food,” she says. “I’d visualize the feelings [I was writing about] and then let them take me over, and they would come out and I’d put them down on paper. Writing the book had its good and bad parts—I relived a lot of moments that I had buried deep and hadn’t dealt with in a responsible way. But I feel so much stronger from writing about moments that were my weakest and darkest. I’ve lived them twice. That makes it easier.”
And, she says, she hopes that telling her story can make others feel better about their own struggles. “Everyone may look at me and see this bright, shiny thing I’ve built,” she says. “When you grow up in America, there’s all this pressure to be perfect. But that sets us up for failure. We’re not supposed to live this even-keeled, soft life. The strongest I’ve ever been is during hard times.”
She says she hears from readers who are trying to finda purpose, battling addiction, trying to connect with their children or just feeling low.
“It’s been wonderful to see how people are connecting with this book,” says French. “Being imperfect is OK! You can do crazy successful things and still go through battles. There were moments when I couldn’t see the light. But you can make positive changes. I’m just an ordinary girl. I want other people to feel the same hope.”
So how does French take care of her own mental health these days?
“It’s hard,” she says. “I’m very prone to burnout. I’m the kind of person who needs to be busy all the time. I crashed and burned once before, so I figured out where that fine line is and made rules for myself that I could obey. I don’t work on Sunday at all. I only go to the restaurant if I’m going to steal food.” She laughs. “I also close the restaurant every year on my son’s birthday. I know those moments are too precious. But balance is a lifelong journey and a struggle.”
As for young women looking to emulate her success, French says her best advice is to build confidence. “It’s about really digging into your gut and getting to know yourself, and it does not come overnight,” she says. “Along my path, there were so many people telling me I was wrong and how I should be doing things. Finally, I found the courage to speak up against the naysayers. It’s definitely a process—and not an easy one.”
French is working on another cookbook, a follow-up to 2018’s The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life in Freedom, Maine.Her online gift market has been so successful that she’s rented a property across the street from The Lost Kitchen to act as a shipping hub. And the movie rights to Finding Freedom recently sold in an 18-bidder auction.
Still, despite all her success, French is determined to hold onto the magic of her tiny 40-seat restaurant in rural Maine.
“We’re determined to get back to that beautiful room,” she says. “Right now, our focus is on getting through Covid and making that happen. But I want to keep it small. I want to feel proud about it, to have it be this authentic thing. I’m trusting my gut.”
Restaurant News, Cookbooks, Television News
Does The Lost Kitchen pay its employees? ›
You will need to specify your availability upon application, and be able to travel to The Lost Kitchen. We offer a competitive salary including staff food.Who is Erin French's ex husband? ›
Erin's first husband, Tom French, is a professional boatbuilder. He and Erin were married from 2006 until 2013; in late 2011, the former couple opened up the first Lost Kitchen. The restaurant was essentially run out of their apartment in Belfast, Maine, and was a very stressful experience for Erin in particular.Why is The Lost Kitchen closing? ›
The last night of the service she describes was a breaking point, ending with a violent fight between French and her husband. On the verge of suicide, she ended up in rehab. He fired the entire Lost Kitchen staff, closed the restaurant and changed the locks on the doors, taking custody of French's son in the process.Is Erin from The Lost Kitchen still married? ›
In her new memoir, Finding Freedom, the cook-owner of the much-loved Maine restaurant, the Lost Kitchen, reveals divorce and a prescription drug problem nearly cost her everything.How often is dinner served at the Lost Kitchen? ›
It is generally open four nights a week through Columbus Day, with just one seating per night. The restaurant's popularity exploded last year after lots of glowing national press and word-of-mouth. French also published a cookbook last year that has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Book Award.How many dinners does the lost kitchen do? ›
FREEDOM, Maine — It's midway through the six-course dinner at one of the nation's hardest-to-book restaurants, the Lost Kitchen.What does Michael Dutton do for a living? ›
Michael Dutton is a current at-large representative on the Antelope Valley Union High School District Board of Trustees. He was first elected in the general election on November 5, 2013.Was Erin French married to Todd French? ›
She'd been married since 2006 to a Belfast boatbuilder, Todd French, and the two were living in Belfast, raising her eight-year-old son from a previous relationship.Who is Erin French's sister? ›
Alicia Richardson is Erin's younger sister. An early 2010's article in MaineBoats.com mentions Alicia assisting her sister as host at the first incarnation of the Lost Kitchen in Belfast, Maine.How much does a bottle of wine cost at The Lost Kitchen? ›
However, you can purchase a bottle in the wine cellar on the bottom floor of The Lost Kitchen, where the menu for the evening is displayed and wines from all over the world are for sale with prices ranging from $14 to $120 with many in the $20 to $30 range.
Who owns the mill at The Lost Kitchen? ›
Erin French, head chef and owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine. In 2014, having newly returned to her hometown of Freedom, whose population is just north of 700, French opened her restaurant in a restored 19th-century gristmill — and on Independence Day, no less.How many months a year is The Lost Kitchen open? ›
According to People, The Lost Kitchen seats 48 seats available per night, four nights a week. And since it's seasonal, it's only open six months out of the year.Why is Erin French's restaurant called the Lost Kitchen? ›
It was hugely popular, with friends and eventually strangers jockeying for a place at the table. A year later, in the space below that apartment, French opened a restaurant she called the Lost Kitchen. There were no signs, and patrons had to search for the door.Where did Erin French grow up? ›
Erin French, the chef of the Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine, where she grew up flipping burgers at her family's diner.Is the Lost Kitchen still on? ›
Our dining room is currently closed for the season
Spring is coming and so is our 2022 season!
Guests must make a donation through the restaurant's website to receive information on where to mail reservation requests for the exclusive restaurant. In order to get the information, fans must donate to the PFAS Emergency Relief Fund through the Lost Kitchen website.How many postcards does The Lost Kitchen get? ›
But don't lose hope if you don't get a call right away: French selects new postcards later if a party cancels. She even keeps all 70,000 postcards she's ever received in her attic.What kind of boots does Erin French wear? ›
A beautifully written modern read with all the old fashioned feels of an E.B. White tale. What I'm wearing: Luksin organic Maine-made clothing and Le Chameau rubber boots. They're perfect for Maine mud season and for spring yard work and around the farm chores.Will there be a third season of Lost Kitchen? ›
GET YOUR NIBBLE BOARD READY! Season 3 of The Lost Kitchen starts tomorrow!How much is dinner at the French Laundry? ›
At each service, the standard two nine-course tasting menus are offered (the “Tasting of Vegetables” vegetarian menu and the meat-inclusive Chef's Menu). Both currently (as of April 2022) priced at $350 per person. Service and nonalcoholic drinks are included in the price.
Who owns John Dutton's house Yellowstone? ›
Thirty-four years later, the 2,500-acre property was purchased by federal judge Howard Clark Hollister and glass tycoon William Ford, who commissioned architectural firm Bates & Gamble to build the main 6,000 square-foot lodge—portrayed onscreen as John's home—and brought in the largest herd of Holstein cattle west of ...Who owns the Yellowstone Dutton ranch? ›
The ranch was owned by the Waggoner family until 2015 when it was sold to businessman Stan Kroenke for $725 million. Galt, for his part, is the current owner of a 248,000-acre ranch in Montana, the same state where Yellowstone is set, who is also known as “The Last American Cowboy,” according to Horsey Hooves.Who owns the Dutton ranch House in Yellowstone? ›
The Chief Joseph Ranch, a historic working cattle ranch in western Montana, has been owned and operated by rancher Shane Libel and his family since 2012. “We fell in love with it — the history, the buildings — just the ranch itself,” Libel says of the 2,500 acres of land a few hours from Yellowstone National Park.How old is Erin on Lost Kitchen? ›
Dinner at the Lost Kitchen is an occasion, and most restaurants of its caliber work to maintain an illusion of effortless perfection. Ms. French, who is 36, has built a cult following with her own approach — open, intimate and personal.Does Aaron French have children? ›
He dropped out of school at age 12 to work as a farm laborer, later apprenticing as a blacksmith and working as an agent of the American Fur Company, among other jobs. In 1843, French married Euphrasia Terrill of Liverpool, Ohio, and they had five children, of whom three survived.Is there going to be a movie about Erin French? ›
They will develop a movie based on the touching life of the chef and entrepreneur whose Freedom, Maine-based restaurant The Lost Kitchen is so hot that the only way to eat there is to send a postcard and be chosen.What nationality is Erin French? ›
Erin French is an American chef. She is the owner of The Lost Kitchen, a renowned 40-seat restaurant in Freedom, Maine. She was a semifinalist for James Beard Award for Best Chefs in America in 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020.Who is Erin Frenchs dad? ›
Her father, Jeff Richardson, owned a diner just outside Freedom. Erin started working there at age 12. "To have moments when I would make something on the line, and he'd give that quiet look of, 'You did it right,' that's where I learned to figure out this challenging relationship with my dad, was to cook together."Who is Erin French's mother? ›
French's mother, Deanna, divorced from French's father, learned the wine business from the bottom up, and runs the wine cellar and shop. The secret to her success, French believes, make the restaurant feel like home, keep the food simple and fresh, cook by intuition.Why is there no 10 cents in wine bottles? ›
Wine bottles and spirits bottles are not eligible, as research shows these drinks are more often consumed in the home and are less likely to end up as litter.
Does Lost kitchen have a cookbook? ›
Our Cookbook. “This charming, tremendously personal book speaks so beautifully of the remote and glorious land it comes from, and is packed with wonderful 'perfectly imperfect' tales of life, cooking, and the love of place.Is The Lost Kitchen an old mill? ›
The 1834 building was formerly a gristmill, then a turning mill, but had been abandoned for decades and was in danger of falling into the creek before local conservationists and Cold Mountain Builders worked to restore it, shoring up the granite foundation and replacing the timbers.What is the most successful restaurant after Kitchen Nightmares? ›
Here are 10 of them that are still very much alive and well.
- 1 Café Hon.
- 2 Spin-A-Yarn Steakhouse. ...
- 3 Luigi's D'Italia. ...
- 4 Leone's. ...
- 5 Yanni's Greek Cuisine. ...
- 6 Olde Hitching Post Restaurant & Tavern. ...
Watch The Lost Kitchen Online | Season 3 (2022) | TV Guide.Does Erin French own the lost kitchen? ›
Erin French, head chef and owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine. In 2014, having newly returned to her hometown of Freedom, whose population is just north of 700, French opened her restaurant in a restored 19th-century gristmill — and on Independence Day, no less.What did Erin French do before the lost kitchen? ›
French sold her own baked goods and worked for a local caterer for years; then, when she was 30, she started an underground supper club out of her apartment in Belfast and called it The Lost Kitchen.How many nights a week does Lost kitchen serve? ›
According to People, The Lost Kitchen seats 48 seats available per night, four nights a week. And since it's seasonal, it's only open six months out of the year.How much does a Hells Kitchen Cook get paid? ›
Hells Kitchen pays an average hourly rate of $142 and hourly wages range from a low of $123 to a high of $163. Individual pay rates will, of course, vary depending on the job, department, location, as well as the individual skills and education of each employee.How old is Erin from Lost Kitchen? ›
A 34-year-old self-taught chef who has cooked professionally for just four years, French is hoping that her new restaurant, the Lost Kitchen, will be her comeback venture following a humiliating downfall.Who is Michael Dutton? ›
Michael Dutton is a current at-large representative on the Antelope Valley Union High School District Board of Trustees. He was first elected in the general election on November 5, 2013.
What was Erin French's maiden name? ›
Erin French was born Erin Richardson in 1981 and grew up in Freedom, Maine. Freedom is a small town in Waldo County. According to the 2020 US Census, Freedom's population is 711. It was even smaller during Erin's youth.What boots does Erin wear on Lost Kitchen? ›
What I'm wearing: Luksin organic Maine-made clothing and Le Chameau rubber boots. They're perfect for Maine mud season and for spring yard work and around the farm chores.Is The Lost Kitchen still on? ›
Our dining room is currently closed for the season
Spring is coming and so is our 2022 season!
In most kitchens out there 8 – 9 working hours is common. However, moving into higher end kitchens 10,12,14 hour days become more common. Often, when working 12 – 14 hour days the week can be a 4 day working week.How much does Gordon Ramsay pay his chefs? ›
Chances are, reservations for the next season or two of Hell's Kitchen are already booked up. If you are patient enough to wait several seasons, though, you might be lucky enough to get a spot sometime in the future. Follow FOX's social media accounts to hear about any updates.What happens in Hell's Kitchen when a team is kicked out? ›
Each contestant eliminated from "Hell's Kitchen" is immediately taken for a psychiatric evaluation to make sure contestants don't want to kill themselves - or someone else. The diners have to sign that they are not guaranteed a meal but are guaranteed all the free beer and wine and bread they want.